Chapter 307: Empress Dowager's birthday banquet (1)
As Han Yunxi waited, Long Feiye still didn't show up. Even Zhao mama began to have her doubts. "Esteemed wangfei, could it be that His Highness...isn't planning on attending?"
"I'm just worried he's run into some trouble." Han Yunxi still had a good grasp on the current politics. In terms of sentiment and logic, Long Feiye had to attend the empress dowager's birthday banquet.
Logical reasons came from the fact that Long Feiye had just tyrannized Eunuch Xue a few days ago. If he stood up the empress dowager today, then he'd cause an even greater commotion. Unless Long Feiye was planning to rip Emperor Tianhui's face to shreds and start a coup, he wouldn't have a reason for the insult.
Sentimental reasons came from the fact that the empress dowager was a senior member of the family. Everyone still had to appear harmonious on the outside. As a member of the junior generation, and one whose wedding was facilitated by the empress dowager herself, Long Feiye had no excuse not to attend the banquet. It just wouldn't fly. Moreover, now that Grand Concubine Yi wasn't going, Long Feiye still had to show his face for her sake.
"Esteemed wangfei worries too much. Could anything happen to His Highness? Let's go, we should dress you up and finish your makeup quickly. Perhaps His Highness is already on his way back," Zhao mama still had plenty of faith in her household's master.
There was only an hour left before the banquet began, so Han Yunxi really did need to make preparations. But she'd hardly reached the doors of the Leisurely Cloud Pavilion before Long Feiye arrived. Usually, he preferred to dress in black, or in white when he had some leisure time around the estate. Tonight, he was going to the banquet in a violet robes. They didn't have much ornamentation, making him appear somewhat casual, but the color enhanced the refined and elegant features that served as a foil to his dignified, somewhat threatening air. It made people unable to take their eyes off him.
When Han Yunxi turned around and spotted him, she subconsciously fell into a daze again. Actually, Han Yunxi wasn't some smitten girl addled by good looks. She'd seen Gu Qishao's devastatingly beautiful face multiple times without succumbing to its charms. Perhaps Long Feiye's looks were the type to be her inescapable calamity.
Long Feiye felt rather helpless before her dazed stare, but simply handed over a large parcel to Zhao mama. Then he ordered cooly, "I'll be waiting by the door. Make her presentable before sending her out."
When he finished, he went to sit on the swing in the courtyard to wait. Still, Han Yunxi stared at him. He doesn't seem to have any reaction about the kiss I gave him last time. She was even wondering why he hadn't seen her for the past few days. Was he avoiding her on purpose? But this guy had just acted like nothing had happened between them at all. He was still the same as before, cold and cheerless.
"Esteemed wangfei? We have to hurry, there's no time to waste." Zhao mama lightly nudged Han Yunxi before she recovered her senses. However, once mistress and servant entered the rooms and opened up Long Feiye's giant parcel, they realized why he said he would wait.
There was a perfect set of banquet robes inside, complete with hair accessories, face ornaments, shoes, and other jewelry. The robes consisted of the most conservative qu style, which revealed no skin aside from the neck. Despite this, it had a dignified, majestic air about it. More importantly, it was also violet to match Long Feiye. There was only a single set of robes, but many accessories to match in all sorts of patterns and styles. All of them were precious, rare items, and the sight of them flummoxed both Han Yunxi and Zhao mama.
None of the things they'd hand-picked from their shopping trip could compare to even a single item from Long Feiye's parcel!
Of course, Han Yunxi was still very happy to use them, because Long Feiye had given them himself.
"Esteemed wangfei, this old servant has watched His Highness grow up since he was young. He's never picked out anything for a woman before!" Zhao mama sighed with feeling.
Han Yunxi wore a face full of confidence. "I'll be the first and the last."
Zhao mama secretly chuckled in her heart. She was willing to bet with her life that this girl would never dare to say such words in front of His Highness's face.
After putting on the robes, Han Yunxi selected a pinkish purple dangling jade hair ornament and stuck it in her hair. Then she added a jade pendant of the same hue to dangle from her waist. The overall effect was simple, fresh and cool, but didn't lack in refined elegance. As Han Yunxi walked out of her rooms, attired in purple, she smiled and said the same lines from her first trip to the palace. "I've prepared myself, would Your Highness offer his inspection?"
Just like last time, Long Feiye stared at her for a long time without saying a word. But this time, he didn't turn away when he was finished. Instead, he approached her and took out a white jade crystal bracelet.
The entire bracelet was translucent and glittered with a pure radiance like clear water. There wasn't a single imperfection in the entire bracelet, which carried a faint hue of purple through its white to create a beautiful, almost illusory sight.
It was the only word he uttered, but it shocked both Han Yunxi and Zhao mama.
This is made from jade crystal!
Jade crystal was one of Cloud Realm Continent's rarest stones, considered even more priceless than gold, jadeite, or luminous-night pearls. Of all its types, white jade crystal with a hint of purple was the rarest stone of all. The biggest one found to date was only the size of a thumbnail, and currently existed in the hands of Northern Li's emperor as his ring. Legends said that placing a jade crystal stone in the mouth of the dead would ensure that their bodies never decayed, just as if they were alive. Where did Long Feiye find such a large piece of jade crystal? Enough to make into a bracelet? And it didn't have a single imperfect flaw!
If this wasn't worth the value of an entire country, then what was?!
Could it be that he'd been busy over the past few days just for the sake of this bracelet?
When Long Feiye saw that Han Yunxi was still in a daze, he took her hand and personally helped her put on the bracelet.
A gift for her? Her first present?
Han Yunxi assumed that Long Feiye would say something else, but he simply took her hand and left. He didn't even ask about the Medicine Fan.
All he did was say a single 'Here,' before gifting her a bracelet worth the value of an entire nation. That did suit his personality. But she should at least bring up the Medicine Fan, right? She'd even told Zhao mama, who was coming along, to make sure she brought the item. Han Yunxi still hadn't figured out how to solve the issue of being sent to the western mountains, so her only solution was to talk terms with the empress dowager using this treasure.
Finally, Han Yunxi said, "I brought the Medicine Fan."
Long Feiye replied cooly, "Mm. It'll be hot in the palace with so many people there tonight. You'll get use out of it if you bring it along."
Take the thing to fan herself? So he's not planning to gift the Medicine Fan to the empress dowager?
Han Yunxi grew curious. He had told her not to worry, but she'd like to see just how he'd take care of the western mountain business.
By the time Han Yunxi and Long Feiye entered the audience hall of the empress dowager's Peace and Wellness Palace, the banquet had already begun. Everyone had risen to their feet with Emperor Tianhui to solemnly sing congratulatory messages for the empress dowager.
That's right, they were late!
The eunuch at the gates saw Long Feiye and Han Yunxi arriving hand in hand, then glanced inside the hall, where everyone was still offering their congratulations. For a second, he wasn't sure whether he should announce their arrival. But Zhao mama simply strode forward and loudly proclaimed, "His Highness Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei arrives..."
Somehow, her shouts drowned out the chanting inside, stopping the speakers in their tracks. Inside the hall, the empress dowager and Emperor Tianhui were sitting in the highest positions of honor, flanked on both sides by fully occupied seats. The imperial clansmen, nobility, established families and various civil and military officials were all arranged on both sides accordingly to position and rank. One could even call the scene overcrowded. Despite this, all 100 or so people turned to look towards the doors at this instant.
You certainly picked a time to show up, Your Highness Duke of Qin!
Under the stares of everyone present, Long Feiye held Han Yunxi's hand and walked straight in. Even the musicians had stopped playing their music, the resulting silence quiet enough to hear a needle drop on the ground. Both Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were dressed in violet robes, he looking regal, she looking dignified. One had the looks to arouse the indignity of the Heavens, the other with beauty enough to topple cities. As they made their way across the red carpet, they looked like a perfect match!
Over half the women present had red eyes and stifled hearts as they stared at the couple. Those who didn't wear purple today deeply rued the choice, while those who did harbored foolish fantasies of standing by His Highness Duke of Qin's side. Han Yunxi, ah, Han Yunxi. Why are you the only special one in this world? You can hold the Duke of Qin's hand and even match his clothes? While I can't even earn a glance from him?
All of the women were focused on Han Yunxi, while the men were more interested in why they were late. Emperor Tianhui and His Highness Duke of Qin were already on stormy terms before the birthday banquet. Despite this, His Highness Duke of Qin had still dared to arrive late. Just what did this mean? What was he hinting at? Was His Highness Duke of Qin really here to participate in the birthday banquet tonight?
After making his bows, Long Feiye said coldly, "Musicians, play on."
Everyone suddenly realized that they'd yet to finish singing their congratulations. There was no telling what plight awaited the musicians after the banquet, but if they didn't start playing now, Emperor Tianhui would probably slaughter them right then and there. The music began as Long Feiye and Han Yunxi made their way to stand on Emperor Tianhui's right. Han Yunxi noticed that Long Feiye was keeping his mouth shut, so she did the same.
Suddenly, she felt a strong sense of killing intent and looked towards the seats for foreign guests, only to see Chu Qingge glaring daggers at her while sitting between Duanmu Baiye and Chu Tianyin! Han Yunxi magnanimously returned the glare with a slight smile, infuriating Chu Qingge so much that her face turned black. She couldn't help but bite her lips and completely forgot to sing.
Both Mu Linger and the empress dowager witnessed the exchange. Han Yunxi next looked at Mu Linger, who immediately averted her gaze and pretended she hadn't seen a thing. Thanks to Han Yunxi and Long Feiye's interruption, who had the heart to continue singing praises? None of the people were really focused on the words as the music played. Instead, many of them were staring at the newest couple. Long Feiye looked as handsome and cold as always, while Han Yunxi seemed indifferent and self-possessed. Once the song was over, everyone returned to their seats. Emperor Tianhui immediately struck back at Long Feiye.
"Someone come, bring over Zhen's six jugs of Drunken Flower Wine. Since His Highness Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei arrived late, they'll each be punished with drinking three jugs to repay the empress dowager!"
Emperor Tianhui was still brooding over what had happened with Eunuch Xue! Even if Long Feiye hadn't made any mistakes and existed peacefully, he would still find a chance to attack him. It would be worth it to suppress Long Feiye's arrogance in the face of all these imperial clansmen, nobility, and various civil and military officials. The empress dowager sat unperturbed in her seat, her expression filled with affection. Despite this, she didn't plan to stop Emperor Tianhui's order.
'Drunken Flower Wine' was known by its first word, 'drunken.' It was a wine that easily made one drunk. Even those with excellent alcohol tolerance would lose it by the third jug. Perhaps Long Feiye could take the wine, but what about Han Yunxi? She might have gambled with plum blossom wine at the Plum Blossom Meet, but that couldn't be compared to this Drunken Flower Wine!
Emperor Tianhui was using this to cause them difficulties while showcasing his strength at the same time. Everyone expected Long Feiye to refuse, but he only said, "I'll drink Han Yunxi's portion for her as well."
So speaking, he picked up a wine jug and threw his head back to down its contents. Jug after jug of alcohol disappeared down his throat. Han Yunxi felt her heart ache at the sight, and dearly wished she could snatch over a jug and drink it herself. But very soon, Long Feiye revealed that his alcohol tolerance went beyond anyone's expectations. He didn't get drunk! Nor was there a single drop of wine on his clothes by the time he was done.
He was very clear-headed as he spoke. "Many thanks to imperial brother for awarding the wine."
Emperor Tianhui was full of indignation as he forced a smile onto his face. He was about to continue when the empress dowager stopped him...